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Nuclear Roulette: Foreword and Introduction

Nuclear Roulette: Foreword and Introduction

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Nuclear power is not clean, cheap, or safe. With Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the nuclear industry’s record of catastrophic failures now averages one major disaster every decade. Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex's “Nuclear Renaissance.”
Nuclear power is not clean, cheap, or safe. With Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the nuclear industry’s record of catastrophic failures now averages one major disaster every decade. Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex's “Nuclear Renaissance.”

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Sep 17, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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False Solutions
 is based on the fifth report in the International Forum on Globalization’s series on false solutions to the global climate and energy crises. Both the June 2011 report and this expanded book-length investiga-tion focus on the appalling attempt to revive and celebrate nuclear power as a grand “green,” climate-friendly energy system that can successfully replace fossil fuels and continue to sustain our industrial society at its present level. Author Gar Smith systematically refutes all the nuclear industry arguments, including one of its most critical assumptions—that the deadly radiation from nuclear wastes can be successfully sequestered for the 250,000 years it  will remain dangerous to all life, an assertion bordering on insane. Nuclear technology was originally devised as a tool to fabricate weapons of mass destruction. Te goal was to create a nuclear arsenal that could deliver an unprecedented level of death and devastation (with accompanying pollution to air, water, and biological systems), well beyond anything that had ever before been achieved. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, atomic power proved it could excel at destroying buildings and lives. But after World War II, nuclear’s corporate advocates tried to rebrand it as a benign, efficient, sustainable source of energy that would be “too cheap to meter.” oday, the atom’s corporate boosters have begun to tout nuclear reactors as the best “green” solution to the world’s energy and climate crisis. In the pages that follow, Gar Smith demolishes these claims. If the nuclear dragon can be slain with the weapons of logic and information, this document should prove fatal. Nuclear’s inherent problems include its extravagant and noncompetitive costs, the absurdly long time spans required to deploy it, and the technology’s little-noted but very important net energy deficiencies. On this latter point, all full-life-cycle studies—measuring total energy expended on everything from mining, processing, and shipping uranium to plant construction, operation, and ultimate decommission-ing—conclude that nuclear energy requires about as much energy
 as the
 it may ultimately provide. Tere are no bargains here. Sustainable alternatives, including wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal, have far better
net energy 
But that’s the least of it. Te overriding problem with nuclear energy,  which dwarfs all others, is that nuclear production demands that society deal  with all the spectacularly dangerous emanations and waste products intrinsic to that production. Te risks lie far beyond the horizon of our imaginations. Nuclear accidents can make large regions uninhabitable. Tey can bankrupt nations. Even a nuclear reactor’s routine, day-by-day leaks pose generational hazards that should make us shudder. o run the industry safely would mean isolating its waste products for at least tens of thousands of years—not to mention controlling the risks of weapons proliferation. Are we somehow exempt from history? Few civilizations last more than a couple of hundred  years. Te Romans lasted about 700 years and did very well for a while. But they made some mistaken assumptions about their own permanence that are  very similar to those we are making now. Te situation would be comical if it weren’t so deadly. What hubris. What madness!How exactly will the nuclear industrys vast tonnage of radioactive waste be safely isolated from future generations? What will shield our grandchil-dren—and theirs? Tis report goes to great lengths to demonstrate that no successful containment system has yet been invented to package this stuff successfully beyond a very short period. Everywhere, efforts to store these  wastes underground have been resisted vigorously by local communities—and with good reason.  Te problem of long-term storage lasting eons begins to suggest that  we contemplate some kind of permanent signage we might deploy around these danger zones. But what language should we use? Will English still be spoken after a quarter million years, in say, the year 25,2012 AD? And even then, the radioactive danger will still be present. Our legacy of poisoned earth will be, effectively, eternal.  Te only thing more bizarre than the demand that we accept these circum-stances is that the governments of numerous highly developed, well-educated countries, including our own, have agreed to let this technology operate. Tey expect the public to agree to these grim prospects. Tey tell us we must let this technology proliferate; we must blind ourselves to its risks; we must continue to contribute our tax dollars to subsidize the unknowable costs of maintaining the industry and cleaning up the devastation it leaves behind. But it’s not only governments, desperate for energy, that accept these conditions. Much of the public, as well, remains entranced by the energy industry’s reassuring public relations and advertising mantras. We need to shake off this state of denial. Te situation is so grave that we should more properly be camped out night and day in front of legislative and regulatory bodies demanding the permanent end to any and every expression of this continued nuclear menace, be it civilian or military.

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